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Criminal defense counsel ponders 'hungry for meatballs' defense

Criminal behavior in Pennsylvania runs the gamut of human experience. Sometimes, an arrest cannot be explained because there are no apparent motives. In other situations, the motive is clearly greed and the obtaining of services or property of another for financial gain. How is the law to be enforced, however, and is there a criminal defense to be recognized, when the motive for the crime is one's need to eat food.

That is the question facing the criminal justice system in Luzerne County after authorities there arrested a 48-year-old man for burglary, criminal trespass and theft by unlawful taking pursuant to the Pennsylvania Crimes Code. The charges have to do with one activity alleged against the accused. He is said to have gone into a man's garage recently and absconded with a pot of meatballs.

The victim called police after finding the man standing outside his home with red sauce on his face and clothes. The police arrived and arrested the suspect. The pot was on the street near the house. The evidence consists mainly of the owner's eyewitness testimony regarding the red sauce on the man's face. The meatballs themselves were not in the abandoned pot and would appear to be long gone.

The charges consist of at least one felony, the burglary charge, which can carry a sentence of several years in prison. The criminal trespass charge may also carry serious enough consequences for the accused if convicted. In Pennsylvania, the authorities are likely to negotiate away the unlawful taking charge as it is contained generally within the burglary charge. Because the offense here consisted of nothing more than eating food and setting down the owner's pot, it may be that the prosecution will negotiate to dismiss the more serious burglary charge in return for a guilty plea on one or both of the other charges. Criminal defense counsel will discuss the consequences with the accused, based on the totality of circumstances, and determine whether an agreement can be negotiated.

Source: mcall.com, "Pennsylvania man with red sauce on face charged with meatball theft", Feb. 27, 2018

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